By Kevin Litwin
Good news, brainstormers: East Central Indiana has several resources and programs available to entrepreneurs to help them start their businesses, grow faster and work smarter.
One of those resources is the East Central Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC) hosted by Ball State University in Muncie. The center assists entrepreneurs in areas such as business planning, market research, grant applications and much more. A couple of recently launched success stories are Farmhouse Creative (print and digital marketing) and Tipsy Turvey’s Pubcakes (beer cupcakes, breads, cakes and beer crackers).
“We get a lot of our referrals from chambers and economic development agencies who want us to help local entrepreneurs think through their business process,” says Scott Underwood, ISBDC’s business advisor. “We help our clients find customers, project their ultimate business plan, get demographic information and receive industry data. We also connect them with people who can assist with networking strategy.” Underwood says the ISBDC offers no-cost consulting and customized programs to help individuals and small businesses.
“We are 100% confidential and help people in all sectors, whether it’s manufacturing, IT, retail, food and beverage – everything,” he says. “And we help each entrepreneur as long as they need us.”
We are always willing to meet with people, even at the idea stages.Mikayla Marazzi, Grant County Economic Growth Council
In With the New
Also promoting entrepreneurs in the region is the Indiana University East Business Opportunities for Self-Starters (IU East BOSS) program. It includes a 54-hour curriculum to teach high school students in Richmond how to create a business plan.
Students meet community leaders and research topics to start a business, such as possible locations, price of advertising and promotion, and management. The program ends with students pitching their ideas to a panel of judges.
Also available to startups is the Ball State University Entrepreneurship Center, which The Princeton Review ranks on its Top 50 Undergraduate Schools for Entrepreneurship Studies for 2020 list. Ball State has offered programs in entrepreneurship since the 1980s, highlighted by an Evaluation Day (known as E-Day) when senior entrepreneurship majors present their business plans to a panel of alumni entrepreneurs and business executives.
The Entrepreneurship Center also has programs like PreSeed Funds, Mentor Days and a Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) club that is open to current and past students, whether they’ve run a business for years or are just starting to think about launching.
Here’s the Pitch
In Grant County, the first ever City of Marion Pitch Night occurred in October 2019, with prize money totaling $30,000 going to winners. In addition, the overall winner won a free one year lease to occupy space in the old downtown Marion National Bank Building that is being renovated and renamed Ridley Tower.
“Mike Halstead, of Halstead Architects, purchased the historic seven-story building and generously contributed 5,000 square feet of first-floor space to the competition winner,” says Mikayla Marazzi, director of marketing and communication for the Grant County Economic Growth Council. “The Pitch Night winner was Obi’s Barbecue, a food truck business with aspirations to become a retail restaurant in downtown Marion. Obi’s will expand into a full-scale restaurant in the first floor of Ridley Tower in spring of 2020.”
Marazzi says entrepreneurship is something the Grant County Economic Growth Council has been involved with since the council’s inception 37 years ago.
“We are always willing to meet with people, even at the idea stages,” she says. “Obi’s story is perfect because Marion needs more hangout spots downtown, especially because we have a Community School of the Arts with students from eight counties who are dropped off there every weekday evening. The parents have no place to hang out while waiting for their kids to complete their lessons, but now with Obi’s, they do.”